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Home > Art > Pottery > Throwing Pottery - The Basic Steps to a Basic Bowl Form

Throwing Pottery - The Basic Steps to a Basic Bowl Form

Submitted by: Lynda Forman


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While it's always best to learn how to throw pottery from someone who's had many years of experience, gaining an understanding of the steps involved will help you in your first class. Though you might still need attention from the instructor, these are the steps you need to take when you are throwing a basic pot. (Note: All of these steps are done with the wheel spinning at a medium speed.)


In order to start your project, you need to throw your piece of clay onto the wheel in the center. Push the piece of clay onto the wheel, add water, and make sure it is adhered to the wheel. You can use your fingers to make sure there is no space between the clay and the wheel as it spins.

Cone Up, Cone Down

To prepare the clay for being sculpted, you need to move the clay up and down on the wheel. Place your hands around the clay and push your hands toward each other to begin pulling the clay up into a cone shape. You might have to apply a little force to do this, but this is perfectly normal. Then, when you have a cone shape, take your left hand and put it to the left side of the clay, take the right side of your right palm and push down on the cone to bring it back to the height where you started. Repeat this process about three times to get the clay ready for shaping.


At this point, you want to put your hands around the clay to see if the clay is in the center of your wheel. If it is not, you will need to adjust it by repeating the coning process and using your hands to center it as needed.

Drop Hole and Open Up

When you feel your clay is centered, take your left hand and push the thumb into the middle of the clay to drop a hole. Push your thumb into about a knuckle's length to help start the opening process. Once you have the thumb down in there, add a little water and then drop two fingers from your right hand into the well you have just created. Slowly take your right fingers and push out on the inner wall of the bowl as you support the other side with your left hand, pulling out until you have a good sized bowl and a bottom that isn't too thick.

Pack the Bottom

Take something sharp and use it to see how deep your bottom is when the wheel is not spinning. The bottom should be no more and no less than about a quarter of an inch to a half an inch. Taking a sponge, smooth the bottom of the bowl by moving the sponge from the middle out to the sides at the 3:00 position on the right side of your bowl.

Raise the Wall

Once the bottom is in place, take your sponge and move it to the outside of the bowl with your right hand and use your left hand to claw the side of the bowl as it moves, pulling the clay upward to raise the wall of your bowl. You won't want to pull up too far as you will lose the integrity of the bowl, so if you notice things are getting too thin, stop.

Recenter Your Rim

Since your rim will probably be off center at this point, you will want to take your left hand and gently pinch the sides of the top of the rim, and use your right index finger along the top of the rim to help recenter the rim.

Shape Your Bowl

Once you are happy with the rim, take your shaping wedge in your left hand, angling it slightly toward the right side as your right hand gently touches the outside of the pot. This will help to shape the inside of your bowl evenly.

Trim, Cut, and Remove

Using a carving tool, you will want to scrape away any excess clay at the bottom of your pot. You are done. All you need to do now is to take a line to cut the pot from the wheel itself. Gently lift the bowl from the wheel at the base and move to a new place to dry out before you can trim the bottom.

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Lynda Forman is a freelance writer living in California. She writes for national and international clients. Her website, Lynda Forman, is up and running, though constantly evolving.

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